c. 2143-2142 BC
Overall: 126 x 55 x 36 cm (49 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 14 3/16 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1963.154
Gudea was an ancient Sumerian ruler who governed the city of Lagash late in the 3rd millennium BC. This statue is missing its head, but it is identified as Gudea, the clasped hand gesture typical for representations of him. Statues like this one would have been votive dedications offered to the gods by Gudea, demonstrating his devotion and piety.
Gudea was the political and religious governor of Lagash, one of the oldest Sumerian cities. More than 2,400 inscriptions mention his name and describe his 20-year campaign of city improvements, including new temples and irrigation canals. He was also a patron of the arts. Of the more than 30 statues of Gudea that survive, this is one of the finest examples. Many statues had their heads severed in an effort to destroy their ritual potency. This figure’s clasped hands create a distinctive, unnatural gesture that recurs frequently in both seated and standing versions; it may be an expression of devotion, humility, or piety.
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